23 Vintage Photos of Birthday Parties Through the Decades
Birthday parties haven't changed that much over the years. There has always been cake, presents, and fun celebrations.
Shirley Temple curls
My twin sister Carolyn (far left), older sister, Celia (middle), and I all had our hair done up in Shirley Temple curls for Celia’s sixth birthday in 1937,” says Lucille Tico of Santa Barbara, California. If you think these Shirley Temple outfits are adorable, you’ll love these vintage Halloween photos.
Good eats and iced tea
The McGee clan convened on July 12, 1944, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Joseph McGee, the family patriarch, who died in 1911. No paper plates in those days, but plenty of good eats and glasses of iced tea to wash it all down. Harold McGee of Byron, Georgia, shared the photo.
Fifth birthday celebration
“I am the lad on the right at this celebration in honor of my fifth birthday, in 1945. My mother made the day quite memorable. I still have that treasured dining room table,” says Donald Mackey of Crestwood, Missouri. These rare, vintage photos show what life was like in the 1950s.
Sharing a birthday
“I was born in 1943 on my mom’s birthday, October 10,” says John Wehrman of Green Bay, Wisconsin. “A local newspaper ran this photo of my mother, Ruth, and me when I turned 2 and she turned 24.”
Welcome to the circus
Birthday boy Jimmy was two in 1947, when his mom and dad, Dolores and Dick Eggener, gave him a party with a circus theme that included hot dogs in homemade barbecue sauce and a from-scratch cake topped with animal crackers (speaking of, read up on these animal cracker fun facts). Dolores’ brother, Jack Kmiecik, took the photo.
Grace Scowen of Kelowna, British Columbia, bakes a special cake for the birthdays of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In this 1947 photo, her son Bruce (center with sailor collar) is the guest of honor.
“This tea party was for my future sister-in-law, Darlene Jones Crouch (second from left). It was her eighth birthday in 1948,” says Suzanna Jones of Granbury, Texas. “The girls were asked to wear dress-up clothes and bring their dolls. The cake was angel food, and there was a maypole in the center of the eight candles, leading to the party favors. I am now the proud owner of the tea service, and my daughter, Lacey, received the china as a wedding gift from her grandmother.”
“For my tenth birthday in 1953, I had a ‘tacky party.’ Only one photo was taken at the event. Photography was an extravagance to my father. When a roll of film was developed, into the album went one shot each of our car, visiting relatives, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our parakeet,” says Donna Mullinax Brown of Villa Rica, Georgia.
Hopalong Cassidy outfit
“Back in 1950, all kids wanted to look like their hero, Hopalong Cassidy. That was certainly the case with my brother, John ‘Ron’ Raveno,” says Richard Raveno of Cameron Park, California. “Hoppy outfits were available for kids, but my parents couldn’t afford the complete wardrobe. So they asked relatives to each buy a piece for Ronnie’s 7th birthday. From that day on, it was hard to get him to wear anything else!”
“Fiesta dinnerware was all the go in the 1950s,” says John Spangler of Hanover, Pennsylvania. “On my wife Mae’s birthday in April 1954, she received a Fiestaware cup and saucer to complete her set.”
When I was a child growing up in Nowata, Oklahoma, my pop was full of high jinks. In this 1958 photo celebrating his 65th birthday, you can almost see the mischief in his smile. No doubt he’s clowning it up, much to the delight of his grandson, Dale. Pop was a great man, who taught me to be honest, dependable and everything else we want children to be,” says Jayne Kennedy Sweger of Great Falls, Montana.
“With eight children, we economized by throwing a big birthday party for each child when he or she turned 7,” says Phyllis Glanzman of Moldovi, Wisconsin. “In this 1959 photo, Shelley holds a cake I made shaped like a bassinet, with a doll tucked into it.” These are the most glamorous photos from the 1950s.
Growing up, my brother, Steve, and I were known as Irish twins. For one thing, we are actually Irish. Plus, we were born exactly one year and one day apart. I’m the older one. Since our birthdays were on consecutive days, our family celebrated them together. Our grandmother made it special for each of us by baking our favorite cakes,” says Tamara Moran Smith.
Odette Landers of Fort Pierce, Florida, took this shot of her twins, Susan and Billy, with their new trikes on their second birthday in July 1960. They’re in front of the family home in Hauppauge, New York.
“This is my mother, Susie Q, on her second birthday in Ashtabula, Ohio, in 1960. Even then, you can definitely tell that food was important to her,” says Claire Burkholder.
A Christmas birthday
My daddy’s homemade three-flavored multitiered cake in 1960 was not only his birthday cake but also welcomed him home after a year’s work in New Jersey, away from the family in Benton County, Tennessee. Since his birthday was December 23, the table and room were decorated with homemade Christmas decorations that my mom had made,” says Ginger Dicerson Canfield of Madison, Alabama. Here’s what winter used to look like years ago.
On his third birthday in 1961, Marlene Barnes’ son, Gary Michael, shows off a brand-new Stetson that went with a cowboy suit. The family lived in Liberal, Kansas, at the time.
“On August 17, 1961, our dog Sniffy turned 15. Every year my family had a birthday party for him. My mom got him as a puppy when she was in college, and he went everywhere with her. Sniffy lived to be almost 17,” says Bobbie Davenport.
Blow out the candles
When Ann Janis of Tucson, Arizona, blew out the candles on her 50th birthday cake in 1961, her husband, Stan, her mom and neighbor kids Craig and Lisa joined the fun. Craig also gave Ann a helping breath so he could get some of that cake faster.
“My cousin Paul, sister Deb, and I had July birthdays, so my family drove to Denver, Colorado, and celebrated at Elitch Gardens. I was 6 here, in 1962,” says William Snesrud of McPherson, Kansas.
Pin the tail on the donkey
Fred and Barney from The Flintstones were among guests at Danny Smith’s birthday party in 1970. “Then, parties were simple, with a few neighborhood kids, cake or cupcakes, and pin the tail on the donkey,” says Danny’s mom, Angela Smith, of Wantagh, New York.
99 years young
Shirley Myers of Valatie, New York, shared a special connection with her fun-loving Gramma B, who celebrated many birthdays, as she lived to be 99 years old. Gramma B was born in the 1800s and passed away in the 1970s. Some celebrations have changed a lot over the years, take a look at what the 4th of July looked like a while back.
“This picture was taken around August 26, 1971, on my niece Dolli’s first birthday in Broomall, Pennsylvania. I was the youngest child in my family and I loved kids and babysitting. I was so thrilled to become an aunt to a beautiful baby girl at age 15. From the left is my sister Bonnie, me, and Dolli, who was very interested in seeing how the party blower worked,” says Margie Gabe.